And Then I Read: SWIFT RIVERS by Cornelia Meigs

Cover illustration by Tim Tanner.

About 70 years ago, Cornelia Meigs was a big name in books written for children. She won the Newbery Award for her biography of Louisa May Alcott, “Invincible Louisa,” and three of her other novels were Newbery runners-up. Now her books are often hard to find and out of fashion, but I like them. This is one of her Newbery Honor Books I bought recently.

Chris Dahlberg lives in the recently settled area of north-central America which is now the state of Minnesota. He’s been raised by his Uncle Nels, who is very hard on Chris, and the two don’t get along. Chris is much happier when he can be with his grandfather further up in the mountains, helping the old man now struggling with arthritis, but Uncle Nels has a claim on Chris that he must honor. At least until that claim is broken when Nels throws Chris out of his house. Soon the boy and his grandfather are reunited, but only after some difficult winter travels for Chris. While in the mountains, Chris meets Pierre Dumenille, a river pilot on the Mississippi who gives Chris an idea of how to make enough money to support hhimself and his grandfather: by cutting prime timber and floating it down the small river nearby all the way to the Mississippi, and then to be sold to timber buyers. This plan is carried out through many adventures and difficulties in which Chris and another new friend, Stuart, nearly meet their own deaths several times. When the logs are successfully brought to the place where they can be made into huge rafts and floated down the Mississippi, Chris and Stuart decide to stay with them, hiring on as raft hands with their pilot friend, Pierre. More adventures and dangers follow in this exciting story, and Chris learns a lot about America and his own place in it on the way.

A fine read, recommended.

Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs

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